Sunday, October 03, 2010

Variances in attribution norms

The New York Times on a controversy over whether a recent article was properly credited.  Of note: (1) The author denies even reading the allegedly similarly structured pieces, but the article proceeds mostly as if he did, or might have.  (2) The similarities are pretty clearly what copyright calls scenes a faire; the question is whether norms of attribution were violated, not copyright.  But the author's defenders argue that such norms were not violated because the topics are scenes a faire, such that any treatment of the subject--the effect of linguistic differences on thought--would cover the same ground.  (3) The norms of scholarship are not the norms of journalism; journalists treat citation as minimally required for aesthetic reasons.  Should aesthetics weigh against attribution in this way, as Zahr Stauffer argues it should weigh against disclosure of commercial sponsorship in many cases?  (Aesthetic here means readability, but then don't aesthetic claims often really mean "not as many people will like/watch this if I do it differently?)  (4) The article concludes that web versions of articles can do better in giving credit--which in this specific case would bring us back to question (1), whether the author had read the other scholar's work.

HT: Francesca Coppa.

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